A Historic Day for Students, Teachers, and Principals as the Senate Votes to Replace NCLB

After years of partisan bickering and months of bipartisan negotiations, the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) is finally set to be reauthorized. On November 30, the House Education and the Workforce Committee released the final conference report to reauthorize ESEA. This version of ESEA will be known as the Every Student Succeeds Act (S. 1177) and will completely replace the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act and the ESEA flexibility waivers.

NASSP has been advocating for a new law to replace NCLB since it technically expired in 2007, and had even formed a task force years before that to draft recommendations on how to improve the law for the nation’s middle level and high school principals. After reviewing the text of the Every Student Succeeds Act, NASSP, along with the American Federation of School Administrators (AFSA) and the National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP), was pleased to send a letter in support of the bill to the leaders of the House and Senate education committees.

On Wednesday, December 9, the Senate voted 85-12 in favor of the Every Student Succeeds Act. This comes less than a week after the House voted overwhelmingly in favor of the bill. After months of speculation about whether or not bipartisan lawmakers could put forward a bill that would draw support from both sides of the aisle while also receiving support from the president, Director of Domestic Policy Cecelia Muñoz drafted a blog post highlighting the positive elements of the bill and indicating that President Obama would in fact sign the bill.

BudgetDeal.jpgIf signed into law by the President, the new law will take effect on August 1, 2016. It essentially rolls back the federal role in education by eliminating adequate yearly progress, the 100 percent proficiency goals, and the one-size-fits-all accountability provisions under NCLB. Instead, states will have the flexibility to adopt their own standards and assessments, and create their own accountability systems with the input of education stakeholders. As a result, schools will be evaluated on a wider range of factors, giving principals and other school leaders the opportunity to highlight positive elements of their schools not represented in test scores. Schools will also receive additional supports to help them succeed.

After spending months on Capitol Hill tirelessly advocating on behalf of principals, NASSP is delighted to announce that several of our top priorities were included in the Every Students Succeeds Act.

  • NASSP worked closely with the staff of Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) and Rep. Susan Davis (D-CA) to write the School Principal Recruitment and Training Act back in 2009 and strongly advocated for its inclusion in the final conference report.
  • At the request of NASSP, Rep. Davis and Rep. Bob Dold (R-IL) offered an amendment during consideration of the House bill to clarify that a “school leader” is a principal within the school building. The amendment passed unanimously, and the definition was included in the final conference report.
  • In an effort to do even more for principals, the staff of Sen. Franken worked with NASSP to craft language allowing states to reserve up to 3 percent of their Title II funds for school leader activities.

NASSP was also pleased that S. 1177 eliminates the School Improvement Grants (SIG) program, under which the prescribed turnaround models require the principal’s removal as a condition for receiving federal funds. Research suggests that principals need to be in schools for at least five years in order to build trust with faculty and parents, establish a vision, and hire the appropriate staff to carry out the vision. The SIG program requirements pushed many principals out of their schools before they had a chance to fully implement the changes necessary for sustained increases in academic achievement. We have long advocated for comprehensive and locally designed school improvement strategies that include a needs assessment and capacity analysis for low-performing schools. Under this bill, states will reserve up to 7 percent of their Title I funds for these types of school improvement activities, and funding is expected to increase accordingly.

While we would have liked to see more dedicated resources for low-performing middle and high schools, we are pleased that S. 1177 requires state plans to include information about how the state will work with districts to provide effective student transitions to middle grades and high school to decrease the risk of students dropping out.

NASSP would like to thank the hundreds of members who contacted their legislators through the Principal’s Legislative Action Center and urged them to pass this important piece of legislation. Now that ESEA reauthorization is complete, NASSP will work to support the implementation of this new law, while also promoting additional policies that support school leaders throughout the country.

Brief summaries of the provisions of the Every Student Succeeds Act are provided below for your review. A more robust summary of the bill is available here.

Title I

The Secretary of Education is required to take “such steps as are necessary” to provide for the orderly transition to, and implementation of, the new law on August 1, 2016, which includes the termination of the ESEA flexibility waivers. However, schools that have been identified by the state as in need of improvement or as a priority or focus school will continue to implement interventions during the transition period.

Title I is authorized at $15 billion in FY 2017 with incremental increases up to $16.1 billion in FY 2020. The bill notes that should Congress enacted legislation to raise the caps on non-defense discretionary spending, the authorization levels for various programs should be adjusted accordingly.

In order to receive Title I funds, states must provide an assurance that they have adopted “challenging academic content standards and aligned academic achievement standards” in math, reading or language arts, and science. States must demonstrate that the standards are aligned with entrance requirements for credit-bearing coursework in the state’s system of public higher education and relevant career and technical education standards. States must continue annual assessments in math and reading or language arts in grades 3−8 and once in high school, and science assessments would be conducted once in grades 3−5, 6−9, and 10−12. Unlike current law, the bill allows states to select a nationally recognized high school assessment, such as the ACT or SAT, as the state’s assessment for high school students. States may continue to provide alternate assessments for students with the most significant cognitive disabilities as long as the number of students does not exceed 1 percent of the total number of students in the state.

States must develop a statewide accountability system to improve student academic achievement and school success. In designing the system, states must establish “ambitious” long-term goals for all students and each student subgroup in the state. At a minimum, the goals must include academic achievement on the annual assessments, graduation rates, and increases in the percentage of students making progress in achieving English language proficiency. States must also include a measure of student growth and another valid and reliable statewide academic indicator for middle schools. For high schools, states could choose to set goals for extended-year graduation rates in addition to the four-year adjusted cohort graduation rate. States must also include one of the following indicators in their plan: student engagement, educator engagement, student access to and completion of advanced coursework, postsecondary readiness, or school climate and safety.

Beginning with the 2017−18 school year, states must establish a category of schools for comprehensive support and improvement, which would be identified once every three school years. At a minimum, that category will include no less than the lowest-performing 5 percent of all Title I schools in the state and all public high schools in the state failing to graduate one-third or more of their students. The districts must develop a comprehensive support and improvement plan for the schools to improve student outcomes that: 1) include evidence-based interventions; 2) is based on a school-level needs assessment; 3) identifies resource inequities; 4) is approved by the school, district, and state; and 5) is monitored and periodically reviewed by the state.

Districts receiving Title I funds must notify parents about any policy, procedure, or parental right to opt children out of state assessments. Districts must also make information widely available about each assessment required by the state or district, including the subject matter assessed, the purpose for which the assessment is designed or used, the source of the requirement for the assessment, and if available, the amount of time students will spend taking the assessment and the time and format for disseminating results.

High schools operating schoolwide or targeted assistance Title I programs may use funds to operate dual enrollment or concurrent enrollment programs. This could include the costs for training teachers and joint professional development for teachers in collaboration with CTE educators and educators from institutions of higher education, tuition and fees for instructional materials, and transportation.

Title II

Title II, Part A is authorized at nearly $2.3 billion per year for FY 2017 through FY 2020. This section provides grants to states and districts to increase student achievement; improve teacher, principal, and other school leader effectiveness; and provide low-income and minority students with greater access to effective teachers, principals, and other school leaders.

States can reserve up to 3 percent of Title II, Part A funds to direct LEAs to support principals and other schools leaders. LEAs can use these funds to design and modify principal evaluation and feedback systems, establishing school leader preparation and residency academies, and to modify state certification and licensing systems to ensure school leaders help students meet challenging state academic standards.

Title II, Part B is authorized at nearly $468.8 million for FY 2017 and FY 2018, then increases to nearly $469.2 million for FY 2019, and $489.2 million for FY 2020. Included in this section are four subparts that focus on the Teacher and School Leader Incentive Program, the Literacy Education for All, Results of the Nation (LEARN) program, American History and Civics Education, and Programs of National Significance, which includes School Leader Recruitment and Support, among other provisions.

Title III

S. 1177 authorizes $756.3 million in FY 2016 with incremental increases up to $884.9 million in FY 2020 to help ensure that English learners attain English proficiency and develop high levels of academic achievement in English. States are required to establish standardized entrance and exit procedures for English learners; provide effective teacher and principal preparation and professional development activities; and provide technical assistance to school districts serving a large number of English learners.

Title IV

A number of programs authorized under NCLB have been consolidated into a $1.65 billion block grant to provide all students with access to a well-rounded education, improve school conditions for student learning, and improve the use of technology. In order to receive funding under this section, districts must submit an application to the state and conduct a comprehensive needs assessment that examines the needs for improvement in each of those areas.

Of the amount allocated for districts, they may use no less than 20 percent for activities related to a well-rounded education. These could include college and career guidance and counseling programs; music and arts programs; STEM programs; accelerated learning programs; and programs to teach traditional American history, civics, economics, geography, or government education.

No less than 20 percent must be used for activities to improve school conditions for student learning such as drug and violence prevention programs, mental health services, specialized training for school personnel related to suicide prevention or bullying and harassment, child sexual abuse awareness and prevention activities, reducing exclusionary discipline practices, implementing schoolwide positive behavioral interventions, and strengthening community services.

Up to 60 percent of funds could be used for activities to support the effective use of technology, but no more than 15 percent of funds can be used to purchase technology infrastructure. Schools could use the funding to provide professional learning opportunities for educators, build technological capacity and infrastructure, carry out blended learning projects, and distance learning programs.

S. 1177 also authorizes $1 billion for 21st Century Community Learning Centers, which districts could use for community learning centers and for expanded learning time activities. The bill also authorizes $270 million to support high-quality charter schools, $94 million for magnet schools, and $10 million for family engagement in education programs.

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